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PRESS RELEASE: United States Includes Dam Emissions in UN Climate Reporting For First Time


For Immediate Release
Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310
Michael Hiatt, Earthjustice, 303-519-9727
Hans Cole, Patagonia,

For the First Time in History, the U.S. Reports GHG Emissions Caused By U.S. Dams and Reservoirs using IPCC Guidelines; Groups Encourage Next Steps

Washington, DC:  A few weeks ago, three river protection organizations have sent a big “Thank You” (see letter to Admin Regan here) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which recently submitted the U.S. government’s “Inventory of Greenhouse Gases and Sinks” to meet annual commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). For the first time in U.S. history, that inventory includes methane emissions from dams and reservoirs.

Additionally, it appears that the U.S. government may be the first country in the world to report dam-and-reservoir methane emissions to the U.N. The EPA’s 2021 inventory report includes a section titled, “Improvements and Recalculations Relative to the Previous Inventory,” which says:

“In addition, the Inventory includes new categories not included in the previous Inventory that improve completeness of the national estimates. Specifically, the current report includes … CO2 emissions from land converted to flooded land (i.e., lands converted to use as reservoirs and other constructed water bodies), CH4 emissions from land remaining and land converted to flooded land, ….” (page 39)

On pages 596 through 604 of the complete report, the EPA describes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended Tier 1 methodology used to calculate those emissions with the “G-Res Model.” On page 598, the report describes the origin of the GHG emissions:

“Methane is produced in reservoirs through the microbial breakdown of organic matter… Methane produced in reservoirs can be emitted from the surface of reservoirs and inundation areas or downstream of the flooded land as CH4 enriched water passes through the dam and the downstream river.”

Patagonia, Earthjustice, and Save The Colorado acknowledged the EPA’s work by sending a letter to EPA Administrator, Michael Regan, on Dec. 13, 2022 posted here.

In addition to thanking the EPA for adding dam-and-reservoir emissions to the inventory, the groups are also asking EPA to:

  • 1.      Further refine and develop the methodology used to count dam-and-reservoir emissions, and,
  • 2.      Require individual dam-and-reservoir facilities in the U.S. to report their annual emissions to the EPA

On point #1, to further refine and develop its methodology beyond Tier 1 IPCC guidelines, the EPA is currently conducting a “Survey of Reservoir Greenhouse Gas Emissions” (SuRGE) study that is measuring GHG emissions at 108 randomly selected reservoirs across the U.S. This study is a first-of-its-kind scientific endeavor designed to “inform a greater understanding of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from U.S. reservoirs, and the environmental factors that determine the rate of greenhouse gas emissions from reservoirs,” according to the EPA’s website.

On point #2, the same groups have formally petitioned the EPA to add dam-and-reservoir emissions to the “Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program,” which would require individual facilities to count and report emissions to the EPA. Individual dam-and-reservoir facilities are not currently required to report their emissions, and this facility-specific reporting would provide important new data to regulators and the public. The petition was submitted in March of 2022 and is now pending in the EPA decision process. Information about the petition is posted here on

“We thank the U.S. EPA for being a world leader in recognizing the importance of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by dams and reservoirs,” said Hans Cole of Patagonia. “To take the climate crisis seriously, all emissions must be counted and reported.”

“Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas that the Biden Administration has rightfully targeted for emission reductions,” said Michael Hiatt of Earthjustice. “Counting methane from dams and reservoirs helps focus efforts to fight climate change, and it is imperative that EPA follow the science and continue to improve and expand this reporting.”

“We strongly encourage the EPA to accept our petition and move forward with a rulemaking process that requires individual dam-and-reservoir facilities to count and report GHG emissions,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Colorado. “Like a coal-fired powerplant or a methane-belching landfill, dams and reservoirs are significant GHG emitters that must account for, and report, their role in the climate crisis.”



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